If You Quit The NASA Astronaut Corps You Lose Your JSC Badge

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Editor's note: The following story was related to me by a former NASA astronaut who recently left the agency.

JSC (and I guess all of NASA) changed security badges on October 1, 2006. Up until that point, all former NASA astronauts (and perhaps all retirees, I don't know) were allowed to keep their civil service badges and come on site anytime. The new badges feature an American flag to identify astronauts.

In fact, as a former NASA astronaut, I have privileges at the astronaut gym and the astronaut medical clinic for life.

After October 1, I emailed the administrative assistant in the astronaut office to find out what I needed to do in order to get a new badge. I was told that I could not get one.

I was told that the only way that I can get on site would be to check in at the JSC security office to get a temporary badge, one that was good for up to five consecutive days of access. This is one of those badges that you get when you forget yours at home.

I arrived at JSC asked the person at the security desk about this. She confirmed that I could not get any other kind of badge, unless ... She handed me a piece of paper about something called the NASA Alumni Association. Apparently, if I pay $30 a year and join this esteemed group, I can get a badge, which allows me access 24/7.

Now the really funny part. As an astronaut spouse, my wife can go on site anytime! This was recently reaffirmed in the astronaut spouse newsletter.

So, it appears that my fellow former NASA astros and I are huge security risks UNLESS we pay $30/yr, in which case we become reliable again. Our spouses are beyond reproach as it should be.

I thought about asking the management about this incongruity, but my instinct about NASA told me that if I did, the wise men in charge would probably revoke the spouse badges rather than allow us terrible astronauts back on site (those of us who don't join their alumni association anyway!). So why did they make a separate astronaut badge and not allow formers to have one?

This is really more amusing to me than anything else. It is just one more small example of how many policies and plans are simply not well thought out. A small symptom of the larger problem. Oh well.

One final amusing side note: I asked a guard at the gate if this made any sense to him. Without batting an eye, he replied "No, but a whole lot of other things don't either." Don't worry, things will probably change next week!"


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